I must be getting old as after a couple of nights camping I flop into a motel/hotel/hostel and lay on the bed knackered! I think at 40 my back has decided to give up lying on hard floors and is trying to force me back into a proper bed. Perhaps I just need a better air bed? Or a night off the pop?
Last night was, as expected, a recipe for a big hangover this morning, but it was worth it because I had the best BBQ ever, including the best, most succulent BBQ’d lamb I’ve ever eaten – perfectly flame seared and juicy, fleshy pink in the middle – my new favourite meat.
The ride from Milford Sound to Christchurch (back via Queenstown) wasn’t so memorable, mainly because it was cloudy and then started raining as I approached Christchurch. It was a fair journey in my delicate state of mind so I stopped for the night at a ‘holiday camp’ in Omarama, famous for, well – nothing (that I know of). Oh – except the wonderful Clay Cliffs 10km away.
I was pleased I had managed to escape most of the bad weather during my NZ adventure considering it was quickly approaching winter. The last motorcyclists the guys in Milford Haven had seen before me were over a week ago, and I think I must have been one of the last lucky bikers to make it safely across through the Fjordland NP tunnel because snow was now falling and the road too icy to ride safely.
I was to drop the bike off at Wayne’s house, Wayne being on the ‘receiving end’ of Paradise Motorcycle Tour’s friendly & efficient network. In fact he was so friendly when I arrived he wouldn’t let me leave, and insisted I help him drink all his beer while spinning riding yarns. When all his beer had gone, one of his mates turned up, Chook, with his winter supply of homemade Gin, and proceeded to issue copious rations as though we were about to enter battle with the French on an 17th century Man-o’-war. When we finished this beer/gin drinking session I do not know, but I do know it led onto an impromptu jam session (I have been known to dabble on the guitar) in Chook’s garage with some more random people who turned up halfway through and started playing bass guitar and the triangle.
When I awoke I was still in Chook’s garage, but he had been kind enough to give me some bedding and I had slept like the drunk/dead. The weather was still overcast, rainy and pretty miserable and I wasn’t overjoyed at taking the bike out for another day (I had a weekend to kill before my flight to Melbourne to collect my Tiger), so I took Chook up on his very kind offer to accommodate me in his garage for another night and drive me around Christchurch to show me the sights.
Of course I’d heard a lot about the devastation caused by the series of earthquakes including the flattening of the town centre in Feb 2011 killing 185 people, caused by movement along a serious of previously unknown faults. Of course, Christchurch having been built in a mainly low-lying swamp didn’t help matters, and the resulting liquefaction was a major cause of infrastructure collapse.
Attempts to try and attract people back into the old city centre while reconstruction is still underway have been semi-successful, and include a number of ‘container shops’ erected and designed into an attractive art-deco new temporary city centre.
With my hangover just about cleared the next day I decided to hire a car and drive 2 hours north to Kaikoura to see if I could free-dive for some of the world famous Paua (Abalone) that Chook told me I could find there. They must be one of the world’s most expensive foods as they cost $40 each in the fishmongers! Unfortunately I arrived a bit late to catch the favourable low tide and wimped out because the weather was miserable, opting instead for pie and chips and a look at the nearby seal colony.
And so with all that my New Zealand Adventure was complete. Every day I thank my lucky stars I’m able to see such amazing places, and meet such amazing, kind people along the way. No matter how far we are separated by distance, language or beliefs, I am always glad to find we are, at heart, all the same – good people living life, and feeding the occasional beer to travelers in need.
I was now excited for my next leg – Australia – where I would finally be reunited with my beloved Tiger 800XC in Melbourne having arrived in a ship container from LA and cleared the strict Aussie customs…